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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

February 04, 2016

On nautical science, sail handling, and the music of a ship

Mauro, Admissions Director, Williams-Mystic

Science presentations on board

Above: Presenting science on board. Below: Learning important skills of sailing.

Ship's Log

17° 53.7’ N x 064° 47.5’ W


2 knots

Weather / Wind
winds coming from the north; clear day, Cumulus clouds

Description of location
Heading towards Virgin Passage

Greetings from the Cramer, currently located within eyesight of the island of St. Croix (we've yet to make landfall-we're just sailing on by!). This is Mauro once again with your daily update.

Last evening's watch, like all watches, proved to be an exciting one. With wind direction changing and wind speed picking, A-watch had the opportunity to strike the main sail at 2000 yesterday evening. For the first time on our voyage our group had to strike the main, under the cover of night with 10 people. A-watch succeeded in their task, and then quickly proceeded to strike the jib. This required some brave individuals to go out on the
bowsprit and furl the jib. Special shout-out here to Cloey (College of New Rochelle '17) who, without hesitation, was the first to make her way to the bowsprit, clipped in with her safety harness, and climbed out to the very end and began furling the jib! Great job to everyone involved-it was an excellent team effort.

Styrofoam cups

This morning's science session examined the effects of depth and pressure on objects using a CTD on a wire and the much anticipated Styro cast. Again, in a highly scientific manner, students sent decorated Styrofoam cups down to a depth of 1913 meters below the ocean's surface. What we knew and wanted to demonstrate was that the pressure beneath the surface could turn a regular sized Styrofoam cup (or any object) into a vastly compressed version of itself. 

Following lunch, and again under a decent wind, A and B watches mustered together to reef in the mainsail (more properly, this time-as you may recall, B-watch did so yesterday evening in the complete darkness). With the sails set, students enjoyed a bit of downtime on deck, reading more Harvey Oxenhorn and practicing knot-tying. The 1430 class session came around and we were greeted by Thomas and Lizzie (Millersville '17) giving a brief presentation of the stomatopods and fish (larval flounder and a needlefish) found during B-watch's midnight Neuston tow. Athanasia, Nicola, and Amanda then presented their work on the pigment chlorophyll-a (the light absorbing pigment found in phytoplankton) and how testing for levels of this pigment help indicate the productivity of a body of water (higher levels of chlorophyll-a indicate more phytoplankton, a source of nutrients and food for higher-level marine organisms). Ecology professor Mike discussed the abundance of bioluminescence in the waters around us, and its causes and uses by various organisms-for example, as an escape mechanism in cephalopods and a way of capturing prey amongst anglerfish.

Students on boardWe finished up our science section with a little nautical science: sextants and knot work. Students were instructed in how to properly sight a sextant by mates Scott and Tristan, though the rocking of the Cramer made lining up our scope and the Sun a bit difficult! They then made their way to the next station (the port side of the ship), where mate Eric gave lengths of practice line and showed students how to tie, among others, the reef, slippery reef, stopper, and bowline knots.

Sextant practice

On a more social and personal note: students and crew have begun to settle in to their rotations and schedules. They happily sit and converse but recognize when one needs to break away for a nap or has to report for watch. They're moving together as more than a team or a ship's crew: they function almost like a band or an orchestra (and not just the onboard band now composed of Lab Coordinator Kelsey on fiddle, Captain Jay on guitar, and Chief Scientist Lisa on banjo), with Cramer's gently rolling masts as the conductor's baton we all take our direction and cues from. To quote and build off Captain Jay's comment yesterday just before the pin chase:

"You feel that? You feel that wind? You see these sails? Mama Cramer is happy that her crew knows their lines. That her crew is taking care of her. She's happy."

Even in darkness, high winds, or choppy seas, we all know the roles we have in keeping our ship and shipmates happy. We know how many people are needed on each line to haul, or how fast we should ease, when to jump in and help our fellow crew members sweat out lines, or when to hop in the galley and take to dish duty. Just like the best of orchestras, we can read not only Director Cramer's cues and directions, but each other's: our fellow musicians, our shipmates. By simply listening to the sounds around us, we can tell when we're using a sextant incorrectly, when our stewards could use an extra hand, or when our helms-person should ease into or out of the wind a bit.

Knot tying practice

Each day on board seems increasingly complex (there's always a new tool or sail handling method to learn), with new challenges to face (furling sails on the bowsprit in high winds), and may seem undoable (learning over 100 lines in just 4 days!), but we do it. We do it because just as our surroundings, our setting, our areas of study, our ship, and our ocean become more and more complex as we study them, we find the beauty in that complexity, and we love every second of it.

Until next time.

Categories: Corwith Cramer, • Topics: williams-mystic  c263c • (0) Comments


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